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  • Liane Morris

Christmas Lights Spectacular | Unforgettable Family Memories


Images Source: Hunter Valley Gardens.

No getaway to the Hunter Valley would ever be complete without a visit to Hunter Valley Gardens. This is particularly true during the festive season when the gardens become home to the southern hemisphere’s largest light display as part of the Hunter Valley Gardens Christmas Lights Spectacular, running from November 2023 until the end of January 2024.

 

With a wondrous 4 million lights on display this year, that’s more illuminating attractions than ever before. Visitors can make memories to last a lifetime as families, couples, and groups of friends or coworkers explore over eight acres of breathtaking light displays and enjoy rides and performances, picnics, food, and drinks. It’s a guaranteed fabulous night out for anyone of any age!


Kim Jacobs, Marketing Manager of Hunter Valley Gardens (HVG), said this year is significantly more spectacular than previous years.


“We’re excited to see new and familiar faces back at the Hunter Valley Gardens this year to experience the magic of Christmas,” said Kim.


“With a massive 4 million lights, thrilling rides, epic displays, and live shows this year, we are so excited to be part of making those unforgettable family memories over the Christmas and Summer period.


“There’s a better flow this year. It’s organised so that the theme of each area flows into the next in a way that makes sense. It really wowed us all, even the staff. We imported six shipping containers' worth of new lights this year, and a couple of our older displays have been swapped out, too.”


The Christmas Lights Spectacular takes up half a year - every year - with a team of over 40 staff working for three months to install the lights and the same amount of time again to take them down. As Australia’s biggest light display, it’s the perfect mid-week or weekend escape.


“Families have made visiting the Christmas Lights Spectacular an annual Christmas tradition. But it’s not limited to just families. We see a lot of couples, marriage proposals in the Lover’s Tunnel, teenage dates, and older people on seniors’ bus trips. The most special visitors for us are those who come every year to take a photo with their kids in their favourite display, like a Santa photo. It becomes a festive record of their children growing up, and it feels wonderful to be part of something so precious to so many.”



Indeed, this year, there are more photo opportunities than ever across the grounds, including with the 14-metre-tall Christmas tree or the giant 2.5-metre illuminated Santa. Families can also take a picture with Santa Claus at an additional cost, starting from $37.50 for up to 12 people for three to six different photographs via email or USB. Enter a new world with the family, including the Twinkle Tree Trail, Mr & Mrs Claus, Giant Dandelions, Santa’s Arch & Candy Cane Tunnel, as well as the brand new 12 days of Christmas LED Display featuring 13 screens lit up and animated to the traditional Christmas song.


The Christmas Lights Spectacular opens at 5.30pm and closes at 10.30pm. On arrival, it’s a good idea to download the QR code, which contains a map you can follow, ensuring you don’t miss seeing anything. From the top of the Gardens, near the entry, you’ll work your way through Fairyland, a formal garden with a fountain featuring fairies on the hedges, Snow White and Cinderella. Then you’ll detour into The Greatest Story, where the story of Baby Jesus is told; you’ll pass Mr and Mrs Claus and then head into Toyland featuring giant Christmas toy soldiers, biplanes, Santa delivering presents and teddy bears. Next, you’ll come to Winter Wonderland, a beautiful snowscape of snowflakes and reindeer, and then you’ll be enchanted by the Twinkle Tree Trail with weeping willows and cherry blossoms; you’ll move through Candyland with lollies, candy canes and lollipops before entering the 12 Days of Christmas which many consider a highlight and not to be missed.


Along the way, you’ll encounter The Christmas World marquee where children can write letters to Santa and drop them in the mailbox, a Santa sleigh for photo opportunities, Santa’s workshops, reindeer in the trees, hot air balloons and a Tiny Town Alpine Village.



In addition to the fabulous light displays, there is a packed show program ready to dazzle guests. In December, the program includes the It’s a Grooving Christmas energetic live kids show, Rock ‘n’ Elfy’s Christmas Show, the Kids Carols Christmas Show featuring Scallywagz, the Pretty Amazing Jono & Bravissimo, Roving Magic & Comedy - combining comedy, magic and stunts and of course, the roving larger than life Christmas characters. After Christmas the program changes slightly to include more stage shows for the kids, including the Pretty Amazing Jono Stage Show billed as part magician, part mad scientist and part MacGyver!


And, of course, a highlight of the season is the New Year’s Eve fireworks display at 9pm and the special kids' NYE Stage Show featuring the Scallywagz. The full program is available to view on the HVG website at www.huntervalleygardens.com.au.


It's impossible to miss the gorgeous 25-metre Ferris Wheel that dominates the backdrop of the gardens and from which you can relax and soak up the views to feel the magic of the twinkling lights below you. Children and the young at heart will enjoy a spin on the amusement rides that are always a popular favourite, such as the spectacular 35-metrelong Superslide for the bold and daring, the classic dizzy-making Swing Chairs, a traditional vintage Venetian Carousel that was handmade in Italy and the twisty twirly Spinning Teacups for the little ones will all help to make it an unmissable event.



If all this fun makes you hungry, feed the family with abundant food and beverage options available throughout the grounds. There’s Mexican, featuring nachos, burrito bowls, chicken wings and even pluto pups; Greek with souvlaki plates and meat skewers; Woodfired Pizza; Healthy Patch with loaded spuds, sweet potato fries and sausage and steak sandwiches. At the HVG Marquee, you’ll find burgers, loaded fries, fish and chips and ice cream; at Tropical Sno you’ll find hot dogs, corn on the cob and the usual sno-cones; and if it’s sweet things you’re after, Cookie Pizza are doing just that – cookie pizzas plus waffles on a stick and Something Sweet are doing crepes, gelato, doughnuts, churros, fairy floss, chocolate bars and desert cups.


For families who wish to have a BYO picnic, there is the option to enjoy a packed meal or BBQ in the park near the HVG Shopping Village. It is not permitted to bring picnics into the gardens themselves.


HVG offers re-entry passes if you’re coming back in the same session. You’ll need to see the staff at the entry gate to take advantage of this option.


HVG is again offering a combined day and evening pass so that visitors can enjoy the full garden experience during the daytime as well as the evening’s Christmas Lights Spectacular. Enjoy everything the gardens have to offer during the day, exit by 4.30pm when the gardens have to be vacated, enjoy a beverage at a nearby winery or pub and then return from 5.30pm when the light shows begin. It’s the perfect day out.


There are accommodation packages available that include entry to the Christmas Lights Spectacular, six ride tickets per person, accommodation for one night and a breakfast buffet. The package through The Mecure is for two adults and two children and starts from $369/room midweek or $469/room on weekends. Harrigan's accommodation offering is for two adults and one child at $309/room midweek or $449/room on weekends. Note that weekends attract a minimum stay of two nights.


This is the Hunter Valley. There are so many places to stay, so many things to do, wineries to visit, and five-star restaurants aplenty and many of them welcome children with activities and space to roam. If you are a family with young children or even teenagers, this is a wonderful time to visit the Hunter. Enjoy a winery during the day, maybe a hot air balloon ride, go horse-riding, try aqua golf, visit the wildlife park and then soak up all the fun and excitement of the Christmas Lights Spectacular at night. Or maybe you’re a local. Why not gather your friends or co-workers and make a night of it – start a tradition and get yourself into the festive spirit. It’s impossible not to have fun and be amazed.



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